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Bellingham
Friday, February 26, 2021

Started from the bottom, now woman of the year

The Sandy, Oregon native was part of a record-topping group of 543 nominated female college athletes from all three NCAA divisions. She is one of 117 Division II nominees and 87 track and field nominees.

In its 27th year, the NCAA Woman of the Year award honors graduating female collegiate athletes who have distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, community service and leadership positions throughout their college career.

“I was absolutely blown away when [athletic director] Steve Card told me he wanted to nominate me for that award,” Drake said. “For me, it was kind of a capstone of looking back and everything I’ve gone through and accomplished in the last five years. It’s very bittersweet.”

Drake is a two-time NCAA Division II national javelin champion and College Sports Information Directors of America Track & Field/Cross Country First Team Academic All-American.

She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in art education in 2016 and completed graduate school this spring with a 4.0 cumulative GPA, obtaining her master’s degree in teaching.

Drake has served the last three years on the Services and Activities Fee Committee. She has also served on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at Western.

“It’s been a really cool experience getting to have a voice in that and understand the different groups that make up our university as a whole,” Drake said.

She has also been involved in a variety of education programs, like Compass 2 Campus and an afterschool program that is offered at Shuksan Middle School.

“I was absolutely blown away when [athletic director] Steve Card told me he wanted to nominate me for that award. For me, it was kind of a capstone of looking back and everything I’ve gone through and accomplished in the last five years. It’s very bittersweet.”

Bethany Drake, NCAA Woman of the Year award nominee

Drake said being nominated was an incredible way to end her time at Western.

“I had no clue what I was getting myself in for when I decided to do track at Western,” Drake said. “It gave me such an incredible community of people and Western Washington University is an incredible place.”

Track and field assistant coach Ben Stensland shared his memories of coaching Drake on the field.

“Bethany has been such a blessing to this program and I’m so incredibly proud of her,” Stensland said in an email.

Stensland believes every high schooler who wishes to be a collegiate athlete needs to know what Bethany has done with the opportunity she was given.

“Bethany is the athlete she is because of her tireless work ethic, her complete dedication to what she has set her mind to [and] the many sacrifices she has made to be great at what she is passionate about,” Stensland said.

Drake recently accepted a job teaching art to junior high and high school students at Bellevue Christian School.

“The next chapter in your life comes with an opportunity to make it more incredible than you could ever imagine,” Stensland said. “You have to go for it [and] you can’t hold anything back. That’s Bethany Drake’s story.”

Of the 543 female athletes, the selection committee selects the top 30 honorees — 10 from each division. From the top 30, the selection committee determines three finalists from each division. The Committee on Women’s Athletics selects the winner from the top nine.

The top 30 honorees will be recognized and the 2017 Woman of the Year will be announced at an awards dinner at the JW Marriott Indianapolis on Oct. 22.

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